The State Coordinator of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) of Assam Hitesh Dev Sarma has issued orders to purge the final NRC of the names of at least 10,000 people.
The order issued on Tuesday to various Deputy Commissioners and District Registrars of Citizen Registration says, “…as per the reports received from your end through Webform, some names of ineligible persons belonging to the categories of DF (declared foreigners)/DV (‘D’ voters)/PFT (pending in Foreigners Tribunals) along with their descendants have found entry to the NRC.”
Sarma’s order asks the officers concerned to “to submit the list of such persons who are not eligible for having their names in the NRC along with speaking order justifying reasons for each case for necessary action for deletion of such names.”
After “specifically ascertaining the identity of the person”, these names are to be deleted as per provisions of the Schedule under the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 which permit authorities to delete names at any time before publication of the NRC. Given how the final NRC was published on August 31, 2019, but is yet to be notified by the Registrar General of India, the government appears to be taking advantage of being in a bit of a grey area.
A copy of the notification may be read here:
The Assam government had expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome of the NRC soon after it was published in August. At that time Himanta Biswa Sarma, a powerful minister who holds portfolios like Health, Education and Finance in the Assam state government, had alleged that names of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants had been included in the NRC. He had demanded that a reverification of 20 percent of the names be carried out in border districts, and 10 percent names be verified in other districts.
The displeasure with the NRC had led to a lot of drama at the time, including levelling of a series of allegations of fraud, misappropriation of funds and data manipulation against the former NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela, who had to be shunted out of the state due to security concerns.
Assam Public Works, the NGO that was spearheading the campaign, moved Supreme Court demanding reverification, but the court summarily dismissed the request. A key reason for rejection was a submission by then NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela that 27 percent reverification had already been done! This rendered the need for a 10-20 percent reverification unnecessary.
The demand for reverification was raised again exactly a year after the publication of the NRC when Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary told the Assam state assembly that the state government was planning to move SC again with a reverification request. In fact, the matter was reportedly discussed at a meeting held on September 20 at the residence of union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi. The meeting was attended by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, State minister and North Eastern Democratic Alliance (NEDA) convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma, Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Joint Secretary (North-east) Satyendra Garg, and Assam Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna, among others.
Speaking to media persons after the meeting, Himanta Biswa Sarma had said that it was decided that the Central government will support the state government’s affidavit that proposed a reverification of up to 20 percent in border areas and 10 percent in other districts. Sarma said, “When the matter comes up for hearing, the two governments will jointly take up the issue.”